The time has come to start worrying and preparing. After several days of slowly approaching from deep in the Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane Florence began to rapidly intensify early Monday, becoming a major category three hurricane and then a category four storm just a few hours later.
As fellow Forbes contributor and meteorologist Marshall Shepherd pointed out earlier, this quick strengthening is “one of the most worrisome aspects of Florence.”
The National Hurricane Center reports that data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicates maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (195 km/h) as the storm barrels toward the Carolinas, but one piece of data suggests Florence may already have category 5 winds:
Surface-level winds inside Hurricane #Florence from meteorological equipment dropped from a Hurricane Hunter now supports Category 5 status.
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) September 10, 2018
The National Hurricane Center currently predicts that Florence will make landfall as a major storm (at least category 3) along the Carolina coast as early as Thursday, with impacts beginning to be felt from approaching winds Wednesday evening.
The below video loop from NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite provides an eerie up-close look at the eye of the storm:
— NOAA Satellites PA (@NOAASatellitePA) September 10, 2018
In addition to damaging winds, NOAA warns that storm surges and inland flooding from a deluge of rain could threaten a significant chunk of the southern to mid-Atlantic area. NASA satellites designed to measure precipitation took a look at Florence Sunday and early Monday and estimate that precipitation was falling at a rate of greater than 44 mm (1.7 inches) per hour in the hurricane’s rain band.
An instrument aboard NASA’s AQUA satellite revealed the “strongest storms in Florence were in the northern and western part of the eyewall,” writes NASA’s Rob Gutro.
It’s possible that up to 20 inches of rain could fall over land as a result of the storm, leading to potentially catastrophic flooding.
Stay tuned here and at the National Hurricane Center for further updates.